Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Mystery drill hall - help sought, please


Dragon
 Share

Recommended Posts

I’ve bought a mystery picture of an unnamed drill hall.

The photo is captioned ‘NEW DRILL HALL AND SPITEP/FULL’ (all capitals). (Query last word.) The setting is clearly a steeply hilly or mountain area and in the foreground is the drill hall and adjoining accommodation. Close by, there is what looks like a farm and there are some terraced houses in the locality.

If I enlarge the picture and look closely, I can see that two fields behind the drill hall is a railway, which has a cutting on one side, at the top of which is a road. On the railway, there is a steam train with eight or nine carriages.

Google offers no insights. There are no clues on the reverse.

On the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust website, I found that in the 1930s S M Powell identified 9 places in Cardiganshire which contain the word ‘Spite’. He claimed that in some locations the word ‘Spite’ derives from a corruption of ysbyty but that view is considered dubious. In medieval Wales, Ysbyty derived from hospitium, a shelter or hospice associated with the Knights Hospitallers.

I’ve traced a few places in that region with ‘Spite’ in the name, eg Tavernspite, a Methodist chapel called Spite near Llanfynydd, a reference in the 1891 census to hamlet called Spite in Llanychaer parish, Spite Inn in the Epynt region south of Llanwrtyd Wells.

Therefore, one thought I’ve had is whether Spitepull could possibly refer to the section of the railway line shown on the photo – perhaps an incline in the region of somewhere named Spite? Or might the word have some connection with the steam train itself? Of course, I may be way off! It might have not have anything to do with the railway. It might not be Wales at all. However, they didn’t normally build drill halls out in the middle of nowhere, so wherever this is must have been somewhere near a population settlement with a railway.

I’ve started finding these locations on the old OS maps and looking to see whether the combination of rail line, road, settlement and terrain fit my picture, but I wondered whether anyone might have any insights or inspiration at all?

It would be perfect if someone recognises the building, but that’s too much to hope for!

Gwyn

Small version - I have high res and larger image:

3341508826_82860f3eee.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Closer - see train towards top of picture:

3341509156_61ff515f7c_o.jpg

and closer on the drill hall:

3340679239_c8f4e44ee5_o.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gwyn

There is a web site called 'The drill halls project'. If you get nothing useful from this forum you might like to contact them!

www.drillhalls.org

Garth

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Gwyn

If you can enlarge the engine a bit more someone can identify the company that owned it, and therefore the area of the country where it operated.

cheers Martin B

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's unlikely that the photograph was taken from the air if it can be dated to WW1. That means the photographer was standing on the hillside opposite that shown in the background. The presence of the railway and a road suggests that this is the only realistic route in the area and the wide, flat-bottomed valley with straight sides suggests that this was created by a glacier rather than a river so don't discount the Lake District.

I'm not completely at home with the word Spitepull. The second P does not match the first and looks originally to have been a T with its extended upper crossbar. It could have been modified to an F or a P but I can't tell.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all.

Martin, the train pixellates. Pity, as it's good thought.

Keith, yes. I agree that the text after 'Spite' is somewhat indistinct. I've tried various letter combinations, but here's an enlargement:

3341735174_2e40105620_o.jpg

(On most of the old postcards I have where the text is handwritten, it's inconsistent.)

I'm not wedded to the idea of Wales, but I had to start somewhere hilly and I'm very open to suggestions.

Garth, I'm glad the Drill Halls site comes to mind as a resource. :)

Gwyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is very likely complete tosh but here goes. We have in Scotland an archaic word spittal. It refers to a mediaeval monastic hospice or guest house. It survives in place and street names. I wonder if that is what we see here? A Drill Hall and Almshouse would be the English equivalent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any chance it could now be known as Spite Hall? Just a guess, but it's up in the North East and if you look at this map below, you'll see that there's a railway running across behind it.

I have limited web access at the moment so can't look on Google Earth/MAps to see any better, so apolgies if I'm wasting time.

post-1356-1236613936.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know what you mean about postcards but the lettering on this is very regular barring that one letter. It looks as if it was originally a T more than ever but I think that it's been modified to an F, not a P. If you look at the LH end of the crossbar it has a short down-stroke. There's one at the other end and it's that which makes it look like a badly-drawn P instead of an F. It's possible that it's the name of the farm alongside. Up in the Staffordshire Moorlands, between Leek and Butterton-by-Hartington where my wife's family originate, some farms are so far from towns and villages that they appear on OS maps. The words Knowles or Stoneyfold would be just as meaningless to any non-local under similar circumstances.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And closer!

3340974707_ce42b1712d.jpg

3341037839_aa9646f8ce_m.jpg

As I said, I'm very open to suggestions and I can't say that I am convinced that I'm right. I agree it has been altered. To me, it has the feel of someone who realised that he'd made a spelling mistake and, knowing that if he corrected the whole letter it would look poor and possibly bleed or smudge, he put in a little dot to complete the letter - whatever the letter was meant to be.

I meant to say before that I see the logic of your argument about where the photographer might have been standing.

Tom - it sounds as if your Scottish word spittal relates to the Welsh ysbyty. It seems that where the English word 'spite' appeared within Welsh placenames it may have been taken by drovers and some people think it may have been an attempt at the Welsh sound.

Stephen - where in the NE?

Edited by Dragon
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's also on herebut I think from the contours the land is too flat beyond the old railway

cheers Martin B

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks. I forgot about Multimap. I spend too much time looking at maps of a hundred years ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tom - it sounds as if your Scottish word spittal relates to the Welsh ysbyty. It seems that where the English word 'spite' appeared within Welsh placenames it may have been taken by drovers and some people think it may have been an attempt at the Welsh sound.

I don't think I can add any more to the debate on the lettering! There is an English word that's the equivalent of ysbyty and the Scots (Lallans?) word spittal - it's the almost identical spital, as in Spitalfields.

My extremely limited Welsh is truly dreadful and used to cause great distress to a colleague from Anglesea! How is ysbyty pronounced? Approximately ussbutty?

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes to the pronunciation. Well done! As for 'spittal', it's been kicking around in one spelling or another since the thirteenth century. It might be relevant here.

I still like the logic of your glaciated valley. Takes me back to A level Geography field trips. Wet, cold...

No-one would build a drill hall if there were no people within walking or cycling distance. So I would really like to narrow down the location somehow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still like the logic of your glaciated valley. Takes me back to A level Geography field trips. Wet, cold...

I did O-level Geology and, later, Mining Engineering so I'm reasonably confident with that diagnosis. It won't be very high up. Glaciers merge, like rivers, and they broaden as they do so my feeling is that this valley is not in a mountainous region. I don't think that South Wales was glaciated. IIRC, the southern limit of the last Ice Age was the Midlands (I remember being shown a morraine not that far from our school at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in north-west Leicestershire) so we'll be looking at mid-Wales northwards, the Peak Distict, The Lakes and Scotland, though that looks as if it must be the Lowlands if that far north. If it's Wales I would be looking at the Corwen-Bala area. Llyn Tegid is a glacial relic, for example.

I don't think I'm helping much, here...... :)

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's been worrying me I have to say, the place looks like the north yorks valleys and moors, but a drill hall with no people about? And the hall looks a fairly sizeable building.

Barbara..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its a big building and an odd shape for a drill hall alone - so a dual use building? This is consistent with the 'and'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will be honest and say it doesnt look like industrial Wales of the early 20thC but knowing how difficult it is for the English to understand Gods tongue I throw this into the hat maybe its a miss written Pwll Spite

http://archive.rhondda-cynon-taf.gov.uk/tr...7fQ==&pg=47

:ph34r:

That makes a lot of sense but it doesn't look like a South Wales valley to me and certainly not one in the coal-mining areas. I think it was Merthyr Vale colliery that used to stand on one side of a valley - with Aberfan in the bottom - but that valley was far steeper and narrower - typical riverine erosion. Pwll/bwll means a hollow in the landscape, if I remember my Welsh, but I don't think that automatically implies a mine. Depending on its strict usage, I wonder whether pwll could be applied to something set in a glacial valley?

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm very grateful for all the lateral thinking so far.

Here is a lovely big version:

3341508826_00788a984b_o.jpg

Does the vernacular architecture of the houses suggest any area?

Drill halls were often built outside or on the edge of a town or settlement, especially if land was donated. I've just been looking into one in Sussex which really was out in the sticks, miles from the nearest village, but that's unusual. The building may also include generous residential accommodation (four or five bedrooms, or more, plus living, eating and entertaining space for the caretaker sergeant and his family, with an office for his use), and possibly an armoury, and usually offices, band room, storage, etc. My thinking is that there must be a settlement somewhere near.

Gwyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even if no longer required as a Drill Hall, that looks like the kind of substantial building that should have survived into the present day, perhaps in some other community use – so hopefully someone will eventually recognise the building itself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps the field boundaries can help us. They look to be a combination of tree hedges and poorly maintained stone walls. Somewhere in the Pennines? Or somewhere north of Harrogate/Knaresborough but south of the Dales/NY Moors proper?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I must admit the terraced houses made me think of that kind of area. You see that kind of style from the millstone grit area of north Derbyshire northwards.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

looks like the kind of substantial building that should have survived into the present day, perhaps in some other community use – so hopefully someone will eventually recognise the building itself.

Yes, that would be excellent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...